The stellar opening. It's what hooks a reader and keeps them reading. It's what gets an agent or editor to request a partial or even a full. Bad beginning? Your novel isn't going anywhere.
But where do you begin? And how do you craft an opening that hooks your reader? I really struggled with this until I read Hooked by Les Edgerton. Entertaining to read and overflowing with examples, Hooked can help you avoid writing three chapters that you'll end up cutting later on. (If you need those chapters to explore your chosen characters and/or world, that's another matter.)
Things to seriously consider:
The inciting incident Your story is made up of incidents. But which one is the true inciting incident? (The inciting incident is the trigger that sends your MC through a life-changing series of events.) How can you tell which one is the right one?
The initial surface problem The inciting incident exposes the initial surface problem. Surface problems will be the meat of your story, the action your character takes to deal with the trouble in his or her life. And through these events, we come to learn the story-worthy problem.
The story-worthy problem How will your character change over the course of the novel? The story-worthy problem is almost always an internal struggle of some sort, and that struggle moves along through a series of surface problems that the character must face.
Setup and Backstory How do they fit into your opening, and how can you segue from the current scene into a bit of essential background information?
And then he explains how to fit all those pieces into a solid, engaging beginning that will hook your reader and keep him or her reading to the end. I can't begin to explain it all here (and would probably be breaking a few laws if I did), so I'll leave it at that. If you're struggling with your beginnings, I highly recommend this book.
What are your favorite writing resources?